Batman Vengeance Review

Batman Vengeance is a third person action game based on the Caped Crusader's most recent cartoon incarnation.  You guide Batman through a series of episodic missions as he battles some of his familiar nemeses: Joker, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy.  The game does a very good job of capturing the look of the cartoons, with Gotham's cartoon gothic look being particularly interesting.  However, once you realize how restricted the environments are and struggle to make it through them with the game's poor control system, you're left with an average game that wasted the potential to be a whole lot more.

You control Batman using the WASD keys that are the standard controls for many action games.  However, these keys are oriented with respect to the screen and not Batman's facing.  If you are looking over Batman's shoulder, [W] moves Batman forward.  If Batman is facing to the right of the screen, [W] makes him make a left turn.  This scheme is disorienting enough in its own right, but when coupled with the game's random camera movement it becomes annoying.  There really does not seem to be any logic to the camera movement other than it has been scripted to swing at certain locations.  You do not have any control over the camera other than hitting the space bar twice to swing the camera back over Batman's shoulder and this does not always bring the camera to where you'd like it. 

Things are further complicated by the fact that Batman has a very large turning radius.  If you try to change direction while running, he moves in a wide arc making it difficult to pass through doors and other narrow passages without first constantly tapping the control keys in an attempt to line him up properly.  Another option is to switch to the game's free look mode.  This mode gives you the ability to look in any direction from a first person perspective.  To get moving again, though, you'll need to switch back into third person view.  It begins to be a hassle to switch back and forth between views just to be able to maneuver Batman along ledges or through corridors.

The free look mode also serves another purpose; it is in this mode that Batman can make use of some of the gadgets of which he is so fond.  Batarangs can be used to knock weapons from enemies' hands and batnets to immobilize them.  The batgrapple is the coolest, allowing you to hook on to objects and pull yourself up.  Unfortunately, this device has been pretty much neutered in the game.  A flashing icon appears on the screen when the batgrapple needs to be used, and when you switch to the first person mode a targeting icon directs you to the exact spot where you should fire the batgrapple.  All that you really do is push the fire button.  It is a shame that in a city full of ledges, overhangs, and gargoyles, that you are not free to use the batgrapple to explore the area or to deviate from the appointed path. 

It's not just the use of the batgrapple that is constrained, it is pretty much the whole game.  You have a set and very linear path through the game and there is no room for deviation.  If you want to do some exploring or come at the bad guys from a different direction, then you are out of luck.  Some crates and precipices can be reached, others arbitrarily can not.  Since the controls are so finicky and unforgiving of your timing, you'll often be left unsure if you are having trouble reaching a spot because it is unattainable or if it is just that your button pressing timing is not perfect.